Working together to support international partnerships

The Uniting Church WA has a number of positive international partnerships that congregations and individuals can support through the International Partnership and Development Commission – formally known as the UnitingWorld WA Commission. One of these partnerships is with the Methodist Church of Sri Lanka; the Uniting Church WA has currently agreed to help financially support  their ‘Interfaith Preschool Project’.

South Perth Uniting Church and Wesley College recently teamed up to hold a Bollywood Dinner raising funds for this goal – building a partnership, not only with the Methodist Church of Sri Lanka, but with each other. Ten Wesley College students participated on the night, welcoming guests, serving food, clearing tables and selling raffle tickets. The school also provided the venue and decorated it in stunning Bollywood style. Continue Reading

New service opens as Juniper delivers 350-plus aged care places

During its 70th year celebrations, not-for-profit aged care provider Juniper with the Premier of Western Australia, Hon Mark McGowan MLA opened its latest residential aged care service, bringing a further 120 places for older people in need.

Opening the Juniper Chrystal Halliday residential aged care facility in Karrinyup, Chris Hall, Juniper CEO, said the organisation had invested more than $100 million in the past 18 months to meet demand for quality services across WA.Continue Reading

Uniting Church WA calls for justice at its Annual Meeting of the Synod

The 43rd Annual Meeting of the Uniting Church Synod of WA was held over the weekend, Friday 13 to Sunday 15 September, at Scotch College Perth.

Members of the meeting, including representatives from Uniting Church WA schools, agencies, congregations and faith communities, made a range of decisions, including to:

  • support the 2017 Statement from the Heart, and urge the Commonwealth Government to listen to it and establish a First Nations’ Voice in the Constitution, and the Makarrata Commission;
  • call on the Commonwealth Government not to expand Cashless Debit Card trials, and instead work with communities on transitioning to a voluntary scheme co-designed with communities that includes holistic and coordinated support services;
  • call on the Federal Government to begin restoration of overseas aid cuts and commit to achieving the internationally agreed target of 0.7% Gross National Income (GNI) by 2030, beginning with a return to the top half of rich country aid donors by the end of the next parliamentary term;
  • call on the Federal Government for a compassionate and generous refugee sponsorship program; supporting the introduction of a new Community Refugee Sponsorship model to assist refugees to resettle in Australia.

Continue Reading

Religious leaders arrested at Adani mine site

Three religious leaders, including a Uniting Church minister, and three lay people were arrested on Thursday September 5 at the site of Adani’s proposed Coal Mine in Central Queensland. Reverend Alex Sangster, Dharmacari Tejopala and Dharmacari Aryadharma refused a ‘move on order’ by police, along with Christians, Mark Delaney, James Thom and Angela Merriam.

Six other Christians joined them blocking work at the site and called on Gautam Adani to abandon the project. The group held a religious ritual of prayer and song in the direct route of Adani contractors preventing them from entering the workers’ camp.Continue Reading

Community gathers to hear experts on WA Gas and its Climate Impacts

Wednesday 28 August saw approximately 60 people gather at Nedlands Uniting Church to hear from key experts on WA Gas and its Climate Impacts. The event was co-hosted by the newly formed WA Chapter of Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC) and Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA).

Both groups are committed to advocating for climate action in a non-partisan manner, with a focus on evidence and ethical practice. The focus of the evening was on Western Australia’s contribution to global climate change, and the unique role our state can play in reducing greenhouse emissions. Continue Reading

Being a safe church is everyone’s business

Rev John Cox is the inaugural Director of the Uniting Church in Australia’s National Safe Church Unit. John previously served as Executive Officer of the National Royal Commission Response and Engagement Task Group, the group that guided the Uniting Church’s national response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

He shares some thoughts on his new role.

What is the background to the National Safe Church Unit?

The Uniting Church took a proactive stance to engaging with the Royal Commission and the work of the national task group was to make sure that the commission had what they needed from the church, and that the church learned from the commission.

In the last year of the commission’s work the national task group transitioned to be more forward facing—asking itself the question, how do we implement what we’ve learned in and through the life of the church?

The idea of a national safe church unit grew out of that. It’s a unique collaboration between all of the synods and the Assembly, so it is owned by the councils of the church, which gives it a level of responsibility to drive change in and through the life of the church.

What can we expect from the unit?

The new body is about cultural enhancement in the life of the church; how do we understand ourselves as church, what does safety mean and how do we live that out?

Our role is to resource the church to provide safe contexts in which people are nurtured and can engage the possibilities of faith in Christ. This is the call to be a Christian community. The unit’s work is intended to sit right across the church, not just the congregational life but also the agency and the school life of the church.

So, this work is about supporting the church to be who we are called to be through the creation of strong evidence-based policy frameworks and resources, further collaboration across the church to create consistency in processes and enhance our education and training, and sharing information to create the checks and balances the church needs to ensure safety.

Do most Uniting Church members accept the reality of abuse in our churches?

I think across the life of the church we have people in congregations, lay and ordained, whose experience and understanding is that this could never happen here.

The Royal Commission said one of the biggest hurdles to adequate reporting on child sexual abuse was the belief that the person working at the next desk could never do something like that.

That’s a challenge for the church, as we understand people of faith to be people of integrity as we know them in a particular sphere.

My experience is that it’s not so much the looking back and saying, ‘I don’t believe that’. The struggle I think is here and now—yes, we accept that that happened there and then—but that would never happen now!

The checks and balances certainly help, but in my view safe church culture rests with every member of the church owning a responsibility to ensure that it’s a safe space.

Helping the church to understand that a percentage of abuse is perpetrated by people intent on undertaking that behaviour but there’s also abuse that happens when boundaries are lax, when opportunities are presented—is going to help us to be that safe community.

What drives you to continue working in this difficult space?

The dissonance between what I heard and experienced at the commission and what I understand the church to be called to be—this is what drives me. You hear stories and you think to yourself, ‘how on Earth could we allow ourselves to not be who we were called to be, to allow that to happen?’

I understand some of the contextual differences that contributed to abuse, the power and position of leaders, the place of children… so I understand functionally how that happened. However, this has not magically stopped… and this is not who we are.

We have moved a long way since some of the stories I’ve heard—but I strongly believe that following Jesus involves being a community of Christ in which people are nurtured and loved by God and by each other, and that being a safe church is one significant part.

Top image: Rev John Cox, Director of the Uniting Church in Australia’s National Safe Church Unit

This article originally appeared in Journey, the publication for the Uniting Church QLD.